The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Sept. 22, 2005
Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein
Dear Archbishop Buechlein:
Thus far, at least two civil child sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against Father Harry Monroe.
In 1977, Father Harry Monroe repeatedly sexually assaulted a boy at St. Catherine's parish (now closed) in Indianapolis. That victim, now a grown Indiana man filing as "John Doe," is pursuing a new civil child molestation lawsuit today.
Earlier this month, a 40-year-old man living out of state filed a similar abuse suit, reporting that Monroe sexually abused him while he was a student at St. Andrew Catholic Church's school in 1976.
We feel certain that other victims of Monroe have approached church authorities but have not taken legal action. We know other victims of his have approached us. And, we strongly believe still others who have been hurt by Monroe have yet to come forward, and are suffering today in shame, isolation and blame. We pray they will find the courage and strength to break their silence and begin their recovery.
Today, we are urging you to:
1) Work harder to reach and help anyone who was assaulted by Monroe,
2) Urge them to contact police and prosecutors, not church officials, and
3) Join us in prodding current and former church parishioners and employees to learn and disclose Monroe's whereabouts, for the safety of children today.
Surely as a priest, Monroe no doubt did considerable good. We are not disputing that.
We are, however, worried about those he hurt, and their loved ones. They deserve the truth. They deserve healing. They deserve closure.
And we are worried for those at risk around him now. They deserve to be warned. They deserve to be protected.
Regardless of your personal beliefs about Monroe, surely you would agree that two separate molestation lawsuits, by two men who've never met, constitute "credible allegations." Surely you must concede the possibility that at least one of these individuals is telling the truth. If that's the case, on a practical level, isn't it hurtful for that victim to have to live with the fact that his molester walks free today and might be molesting youngsters even now? On a moral level, shouldn't you do as Jesus taught us and actively reach out to any of the lost and wounded sheep, the boys who may have been raped or sodomized by Monroe? Don't you owe this to the Catholics you serve?
Our request is inexpensive, simple and has worked elsewhere. We call on you to use your diocesan newspaper, web site, church bulletins and other resources to strongly, specifically and repeatedly encourage anyone who witnessed, suspected or experienced sex crimes by Monroe to
-- contact independent mental health professionals and get the help they need and deserve
-- contact police and prosecutors, so he might be incarcerated and children be spared lifetimes of pain.
So far, for the most part, you have continued down the same worn, hurtful and self-destructive path followed by so many of your colleagues: passively sitting back, waiting for victims to call. Sure, when an abuse story hits the newspapers, your public relations staff trots out the same tired, hollow-sounding call to come to church officials if you've been victimized. (Often, little or no mention is made of reporting to the independent professionals in law enforcement or the availability of independent sources of support and help like our group). But you've done little to actively look for those who may be in pain and offer them the support and encouragement they need to begin to heal and begin to safeguard others by exposing their abusers.
And you continue to encouarge victims to contact church officials, not law enforcement. That's damage control, not outreach.
You know that actions speak louder than words. You know that a direct, personal appeal from you to your flock would be far more effective. You know you can do more to break through the long-standing but unhealthy climate of secrecy that has allowed tens of thousands of innocent children to be sexually assaulted by thousands of Catholic clerics, a climate that won't be changed by a few sentences in a few news releases.
So, we call on you to personally visit the churches where Monroe worked. We beg you to emphatically prod victims to come forward. If you genuinely want you diocese to be safer, why not lead by example? Why not set a tone, an atmosphere in which disclosure, not secrecy is valued?
We have another request is even more simple. We ask that you join us in urging current and former church members and employees to disclose where Monroe is now. This is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to safeguard vulnerable kids right now. If parents know there's a molester or an accused molester on their block, they can protect their children.
(And we are convinced that current and former church members and employees know or can find out where Monroe now lives.)
Archbishop, think of your own flock. In just three weeks, Monroe has been sued at least twice. Who knows how many other will come forward? How will Indianapolis Catholics feel when the 15th victim files a lawsuit? Or the 25th victim? Or when civil cases against him are settled? Or when Monroe's former colleagues or parishioners admit they knew or suspected he was molesting? Or when he's arrested in a few months for sexually assaulting kids very recently?
Any of this could happen. The pain and betrayal that many in your diocese already feel would only be deepened. Acting now to warn others about Monroe is the right thing to do. And it would reassure your flock that you take sexual abuse by clergy seriously.
Over the past 16 years, we've usually been ignored or rebuffed when we've asked bishops to help victims heal and help prevent future abuse by adopting real reforms. Among dozens of other suggestions, we've asked bishops to:
- Publicly name and permanently post the proven, admitted and credibly
accused priests on church websites.
We, of course, still want you to adopt these reforms. But, if you won't take these inexpensive, common sense steps, won't you at least do as Jesus taught us and actively search for and help the lost and wounded sheep who have been hurt by Fr. Monroe? Won't you please urge your staff and parishioners to do their civic and Christian duty to help prosecute a
We hope to hear from you soon.
Sandy Teagarden Thomas
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests